Late-life depression has been considered to be associated with memory deficits and hippocampal volume reduction. Considering that not all depression patients undergo the same amount of cognitive impairment or regional brain volume loss, moderating factors such as complex mental activity and social activity have been examined to assess whether these factors attenuate the detrimental impact of depressive symptoms on cognitive function and regional brain volume. However, the premise that a cognitively stimulating experience may modify the association between depressive symptoms and memory or hippocampal volume has not been investigated using social network data, which would reflect individuals’ concrete characteristic of everyday social activity. In a social network, a brokerage position which connects two otherwise unconnected others demands mental and physical efforts. Using complete social network data in an entire village in South Korea, we examined whether opportunities for brokerage in social networks alter the negative association between depressive symptoms and episodic memory function or hippocampal volume in older adults. Initially, 125 participants were included in the analysis involving episodic memory function. Then, of which 65 participants completed the MRI scan, and were included in the subsequent analysis containing the hippocampal volume. Furthermore, we investigated the gender-specific effect of brokerage based on the previously reported gender difference in the effect of social networks. We found a gender-specific moderating effect of brokerage. For men, a large opportunity for brokerage weakened the negative association between depressive symptoms and memory performance and left hippocampal volume. In contrast, women showed that a large opportunity for brokerage was not beneficial for assuaging the impact of depressive symptoms on memory performance and hippocampal volume. In women, the opportunity for brokerage was positively associated with the detrimental impact of depressive symptoms on memory performance and hippocampal volume. Our findings suggest that occupying a bridging position in a social network may minimize the impact of depressive symptoms on memory function and hippocampal volume among older men, whereas the opposite holds true for older women.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes